Last Spring, Dr. David Miller at the University of Connecticut participated via an iChat videoconference in a podcasting roundtable organized by the IT department at Texas Tech University. Dr. Miller has been using podcasts with his undergraduate psychology students for a year, starting in fall 2005. Rather than “course-casting”– simply putting the audio for his class lectures online, Dr. Miller uses a much more interactive and engaging format of “discussion casting” with his students following each class.
Dr. Miller has posted the analyzed results from his student surveys from last Spring, regarding their perceptions about his “discussion casts,” as a short enhanced podcast. (13.5 min, 3.7 MB)
193 of Dr. Miller’s undergraduate psychology students responded to his end-of-course survey. He created 21 podcasts during the Spring 2006 term. Over half the students completing the survey reported listening to podcasts, and over half of the students who answered the question “Did the podcasts enhance your learning in this class?” responded affirmatively. The podcasts were made available to students as an optional course resource, and participation in the podcast discussions was NOT mandatory, but many of the students did take advantage of them and reported they played a positive role in their learning during the term.
This summative, quantitative information is interesting and helpful, but the open-ended responses of students to the interactive podcasts are also worth examining.
Positive comments from students in the end-of-course survey included:
- Helped clarify and understand
- Helped me learn by hearing information again
- Addressed questions I had too
- Liked getting additional information and details
- Great test review
- Liked interactive conversation
Negative comments included:
- Excessive length
- Extraneous information discussed
- Some got off topic
- Student didn’t have an iPod; Student didn’t like sitting at the computer to listen
- Some podcasts were more helpful than others
The results of Dr. Miller’s research remind me of the eCar 2005 survey of undergraduate students around the United States, which found that students want choices in their learning options which include technology. Not all students want to use podcasts, but many do, and many that use them find them helpful.
What are the takeaway lessons here? First of all, we need more creative and innovative university professors like Dr. Miller in our institutions of higher learning who are willing to take risks and embrace new technologies to see what impact they have on student learning. 🙂 Secondly, we see that not all students are rushing out to embrace the latest craze in educational technology: podcasting! This should not be a surprise, this was a finding of the eCar 2005 report as well. Many students are taking advantage of innovative and technological learning opportunities like this, however, and this trend is likely generalizable beyond the students at the University of Connecticut. (eCar 2005 suggests it is.)
The main takeaway, I think, is that for instruction at all levels, we need to PROVIDE STUDENTS WITH CHOICES to help engage them in the learning process, use technology where appropriate in this quest, and study the results to determine what works and what doesn’t. Based on his survey results, interactive podcasting (as Dr. Miller is doing it) has been very well-received by his students and had a positive impact on student learning for many.
Learn more about Dr. Miller’s interactive podcasts, which he has titled “iCube: Issues In Intro,” on http://icube.uconn.edu.
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